Tag Archives: home purchase

The Best Homes for Super Bowl Entertaining

Super bowl is said to be one of the biggest entertainment and gathering events of the year. No other event pits the challenges of food and television more to a host. So, when I am showing a house, I often look at the spaces in the “how can I entertain in this house.” Because even if you don’t entertain, the same principals often apply to everyday use. So here is my criteria for the perfect Super Bowl entertaining house.

1. Space. Space is a given for most entertaining. The more space you have in a kitchen, the more food you can put out and the easier it is for people to “graze” for several hours. This is true of any entertaining and gathering event like holidays and special occasions where you host family and friends.

But coupled with a television event, you also need seating and gathering space for a lot of people to hover around the biggest screen. Space is important and in this case, bigger is better.

2. Open areas. When hosting, it is extremely helpful to have open gathering spaces where people can move and mingle between food and conversation easily. Open floor plans between the kitchen and family room help facilitate ease of not missing out on either snacks or the TV main event. And when even the commercials are important, an open floor plan can mean you don’t miss a minute.

3. Kitchen Island. Kitchen islands are a great invention. They add counter and storage space, can double as a table or snack counter, can elevate small hands and eyes when baking, can be a table for homework. The benefits are endless. But when hosting a food gathering, they can be the main event. The kitchen island can be the place where the food goes. With four accessible sides, it is easy to move around and create your plate or just pop in to snitch something. It also frees your other counterspace for preparation and isolates more of the mess to certain areas.

Sometimes basements are a great space for all this, but family room kitchen combo seem to be the preference. It has everything, your main cooking space, natural light and access to the door for guest coming and going. This house for sale pictured at 648 Larkspur in Matteson, Illinois shows the perfect set up for a great Super Bowl party.

photo1 (2)

photo2 (5)

What you need to know about using an Attorney in a Real Estate Closing

Many of my clients ask if they have to use an attorney when buying or selling a home. While the answer is no you don’t have to but you need to use an attorney when buying or selling a home and here is why.
1. Who is going to explain all the paperwork to you at the closing? By law in Illinois, only an attorney can explain the mountain of paperwork from the mortgage note to the deed to the closing charges to ensure that you are getting what you paid for and that you understand everything you are signing. So unless you want to just sign a bunch of papers you don’t understand, you need a real estate attorney there with you when signing.
2. If you are selling property…there are a myriad of paperwork that needs to be completed for transfer taxes and there are documents to be reviewed like the title, survey, deed. If you don’t understand every word and paragraph, how do you know it is completed properly? How do you know that your error will not put you in future litigation?
3. Dealing with the other attorney…In Illinois, most sellers use an attorney, so if you are a buyer, you would have to deal directly with the attorney on everything, inspection repairs, extensions, title problems and review? While these things are not rocket science they do require a level of knowledge and experience to be successfully achieved. If the other side has it and you don’t…you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
4. Are you sure you are protected and getting what you are entitled to? Buying and selling a home is complicated. The deed and title need to be reviewed to ensure there are no liens. The survey needs to be reviewed. Real estate taxes and exemptions can expose you to paying more taxes out of pocket than necessary. A real estate attorney will review all these items and protect your interests now and in the future.
5. Make sure it is a real estate attorney who has experience in real estate. You would not have a cardiologist perform brain surgery. Both doctors, but specific knowledge and experience are required. Same with attorneys, there are nuances that only attorneys who practice in real estate will know and recognize. This could be the difference between preventing or solving a problem or something you will have in the future.
6. Where do you look for a real estate attorney? Your Realtor and/or lender are great resources. They work with attorneys every day and can give you a personal recommendation. Then you should talk to them and ensure you feel comfortable with them. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions and ensure they have time to help you and will communicate with you.
7. What should I expect from my attorney? Some attorneys are the “just see you at closing types.” You are better off with someone who is with you every step of the way, not just on the day of closing. They should review all the paperwork, communicate with the Realtors, lender, title company and other attorney. They should answer all your questions and keep you up to date. They need to protect your interests and do what is best for you. And they should work well with all the parties involved to make a smooth transaction. If they seem difficult to work with, they are likely not the right choice. Real estate transactions have a lot of moving parts, all parties need to work together to ensure a smooth and successful experience. And keep in mind, while an assistant or paralegal can do a lot of the paperwork, they should not be the one answering your questions and explaining paperwork. That is what your attorney is for.

8. What should you pay for a real estate attorney? You usually pay a flat fee, not by the hour, phone call or retainer for a real estate transaction. It is paid at closing. You can negotiate the fee, especially as the seller of the property, but again it is more important to get a good attorney than save a few bucks.

Simply said. You don’t know what you don’t know. In every industry there are experts that people rely on to protect, educate and inform them. Doing it yourself you could miss something that will cost you money, hassle and more in later years. Unless you understand all the paperwork and laws…get an expert. After all, this is not only your home, but your largest investment.

Selling and Buying a Home with Home For Sale or Close Contingencies – Facts and Fiction

If you are selling you home, do you buy a new home first or do you wait until you sell and risk two moves and being homeless. It can be a dilemma and can be exacerbated by complications of a large family or work schedule, schools, transportation, etc.

Once upon a time, buying a home contingent on the sale of your home was normal. When the housing slump occurred, sellers did not have enough confidence in the market that the buyer could sell their home to risk taking their home off the market. Since 2015, that is beginning to change. Sellers are having more confidence in the market, but not total confidence. Here are some facts for buyers and sellers about contingencies.

. You can not purchase a foreclosure or short sale home contingent upon the sale or close of your home. And banks will not give you months to sell and close on your home.
. A purchase contingent on sale or close is a big seller concession, they need to be compensated with a better offer price to risk losing market time.
. Best time to ask for contingent on sale or close is during the winter months. Sellers are not risking as much. . You have better chance and price negotiation on that – still no foreclosures or short sales.
. Do the inspection up front, but not the appraisal. Yes, the inspection costs money but you need to show the seller good faith that you are serious about the deal. Inspection items are negotiable and need to be done within the 1st week of any contract so no one wastes their time.

. Never take a contingent on sale/close contract over a non contingent contract. Yes, you may get a little money more, but it is not a done deal and wasting precious market time can cost you more than you gain if it doesn’t go through.
. Your house is NOT SOLD. There are no sure things here, there is always a risk. Keep showing it.
. Your agent should do a market analysis of the buyer’s home to ensure their home is saleable or closeable to mitigate the risk.
. Don’t compound contingent on sales. So don’t you get a house contingent on sale/close when your buyer has the same situation. And don’t take a contingent on sale/close deal if the buyer’s buyer has the same. Just like dominos, too much risk, it could all come tumbling down.
. Not all sellers should consider a contingent on sale/close. Contingent on close is better, but if you are in a good market and getting tons of activity…..better not to risk it.

The property ladder can not move without someone taking a risk. Contingencies on sale/close can work, but due diligence is required to calculate the benefits and risks. Many sellers and buyers benefit from this, but both must be realistic.

The RIGHT way to look at closing costs when selling a home or buying a home

Closing costs when selling a home or buying a home seem to always be a tug of war between buyers and sellers. Buyers think that sellers should include closing costs for them. A lot of times when I show younger people their parents or grandparents always tell them “they (the seller) should include closing costs.” Sellers often oppose the idea of including closing costs for buyers, often sellers say. “Why should I pay their closing costs. If they can’t afford closing costs, maybe they shouldn’t be buying a home.” The truth is both parties are wrong. When selling a home or buying a home, closing costs become just part of the equation to make the deal happen. However, the way to look at it is not seller concessions or seller paying the closing costs…it should be seller allowing the buyer to finance their closing costs by making it part of the deal.

Many buyers need the closing costs to make the deal happen. There are a lot of people who just are not savers any more. They may good money but the down payment is about as much as they can do. But buyers need to realize that the seller doesn’t owe them anything. And while every thousand dollars costs a buyer $5 dollars a month in monthly payment, $1,000 dollars is a $1,000 to the seller.

Sellers need to realize that they don’t get to decide who gets to buy a home or who does not get to buy a home. Sellers should not care who is buying and what their financial situation is, as long as they are approved to buy the home and will get the loan and offer an agreeable price.

When buying a home, you should consider financing your closing costs. It can help you get into a home and use your savings for down payment or improvements to the home, moving, etc. it all takes money and if you can finance the closing costs, it can cost you only a few dollars more each month.

When selling a home, you should consider the request to “pay” buyer closing costs as allowing the buyer to finance their closing costs. It does not affect your net. As long as you are getting the amount you want, what do you care if they include the closing costs in their mortgage?

I often negotiate my deals based on the net to the seller. Don’t include closing costs in the initial negotiation, but let the other party know you intend to add the closing costs to the deal once a net to the seller price can be agreed upon. That way it is not an emotional or adversarial issue for the buyer or the seller. It is a non issue and you can focus on the price – bottom line to the seller.

The only time this becomes an issue is when the appraisal does not meet value. Then it becomes a little sticky. Appraisers are supposed to consider the closing costs paid on the contract, but sometimes they don’t and the closing costs become a pawn in the renegotiation.

When buying a home, buyers need to understand that sellers are entitled to get at least the value of the home, as appraised. Remember, appraisals are not always true to the real value of the home. It is based on the recent comparables, so sometimes the home’s value is more, but it is suffering from lack of comparables or neighbors who are giving away homes to get out.

Home Sellers need to understand that appraisals may or may not be indicative of the true value of the home, but the current market value depends on the comparables, nothing else. And while sometimes, the buyer can come to the table with money above the appraisal, sometimes they don’t have that extra money. And often it is difficult to get a buyer to pay above the appraisal price.

Closing costs need to be considered by both parties as a part of the deal and means to the end to make negotiations go smoother.

Millennial Buyers – How to Live for Free

I blog a lot about Millennials because they are very important to every aspect of our economy and housing recovery. One of the millennial trademarks that is unique to this generation is the “boomerang” or “failure to launch” effect of millennial graduates moving back in with mom and dad.

Let’s face it, after the taste of freedom in college, living with your parents as an adult is a little awkward and can be difficult to conduct your life on your terms and spread your wings.

It can have the same difficulties to your parents who don’t keep the same nocturnal calendar as their adult children and are tired of having to tell an adult to pick up their things.

To solve all of those problems and plan for the future, several of my millennial buyers have come up with a new idea that I am calling the Millennial Boarding House.

Instead of living with mom and dad, this formula can be used by smart millennials who don’t want to waste money on rent and want independence. You can be a first-time buyer and create an investment nest egg to move up in the housing market, get government grants and most importantly LIVE FOR FREE. Here is how it works….

1. Use your good credit rating and income to qualify for a nice starter home that has a good price, good area, good schools and is in an accelerating and not a declining area and has potential for future resale. You can do some work updating it if you like or not. The idea is good for now and easy to sell in the future. There are still deals out there and we are in an accelerating marketplace. Interest rates are good. Waiting will cost more.
2. Use government grants through the @Home Illinois program to get $5k in free down payment and/or closing costs.
3. Find a few friends to be roommates and charge them a few hundred dollars each month. Cheap for them and they get independence from their parent’s house or basement.
4. You can live for Free. If you have two or three extra bedrooms, you can charge friends enough to cover your monthly payment and you pay nothing or next to nothing each month to live.
5. You save money by not having to pay anything each month to live, building your nest egg for the future.
6. In a few years when you are ready to get married or start a family, you sell the house for a profit and a nice down payment on your first family house. Or, you keep the house as an investment and rent it out for future income.

There it is, an easy formula for success to start saving money, not waste money on rent and plan for the future. Do yourself a favor and call a Realtor – call me – and get on the path to future equity and success.

4 Bedroom Home in Orland Park with Enviable Outdoor Garden and Living Area

Yes, Winter in Chicago is here and the “white stuff” SNOW is already starting to make an appearance. BUT it is only 136 days to Spring flowers. This 4 bedroom home in Orland Park offers exceptional landscaping with great outdoor space to remind us of warmer days and outdoor living with barbeques, bonfires and enjoying a warm sunny day. This 4 bedroom home in Orland Park is for sale at $509,900 and offers easy ranch living with an open floor plan with 3 bedrooms on the main floor, including the master suite, plus a loft suite with full bath, bedroom and sitting area and a full related living suite with full kitchen, 2nd laundry, two additional bedrooms and huge open living area.

The Outdoor Garden in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park includes an electronic Sunsetter retractable awning to shade the patio area. The patio area is surrounded by brick paver wall and decorative iron fencing.

Included Planter boxes on the brick wall of this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park can be filled with perennials or colorful annual flowers as seen in this picture.

Perennial plantings in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park surround the patio area and exterior perimeter of the home featuring multi-seasonal plantings which will give color and look elegant and manicured in every season. This is the back yard everyone wants. It is available in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park for $509,900 along with a 3,100 square foot upgraded executive ranch home. With granite counters, hardwood flooring, volume ceiling and decorative custom features, this home is beautiful and elegant inside and out. deerpoint garden 14

Veterans Benefits can make Homebuying Easier

Today on Veterans Day, we celebrate and thank men and women vets past and present for their service and sacrifice. But there are more tangible 24/7/365 benefits offered in housing that give an advantage to veterans buying a home.

VA loans are a huge benefit. You can use it any time, one home at a time. VA loans are currently the only NO MONEY DOWN option offered for veterans buying a home. AND for veterans buying a home with low money down usually comes with a PMI private mortgage insurance kicker that can be a couple hundred dollars per month. Veterans buying a home DO NOT HAVE ANY PMI. Huge savings and can help qualify for veterans buying a home in a different price range for the same monthly payment. Veterans buying a home need to have a 640 credit score and qualify for the loan on the debt to income ratio. There is a service fee that is tacked onto the back of the loan, so you don’t ever see it really. Also, there are condition standards that the home must meet. This can make foreclosure homes a little more difficult for veterans buying a home (but no more difficult than FHA financing) BUT not impossible. Veterans buying a home and considering foreclosures need to work with a Realtor and lender who are familiar with the requirements. You also will need a termite inspection (no other loans require) and about 45 days to close.

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Housing also offers a program for Veterans buying a home to receive $10,000 to pay for closing costs, etc. With no down payment, after closing costs are paid for, the extra money can go to paying down the mortgage loan, which means getting a discount on the home. Great program. Doesn’t have to be done on a VA loan. Can be an FHA or conventional loan. Eligibility does have an income maximum and Veterans can not own another home at the same time to use the program. BUT it CAN be combined with other downpayment grant or assistance monies in certain state areas.
I have sold several homes with the use of these programs, both combined and separately and it enabled my
Veterans buying a home to get a home faster and get more home for the same money.

Not all lenders can do VA loans or participate in the IDHA Heroes program. And not all lenders offer the program, even if they can do it. This was the case with several of my clients. Make sure to ask your lender if they participate in the program. Information about both these programs is available online at idha.gov, hud.gov and benefits.va/gov/homeloans.

Another feature for veterans buying a home or just living in a home is the various tax exemptions offered by various counties. An exemption on your taxes is like a discount offered to certain people like homeowners, seniors, disabled people and veterans. This tax exemption or discount deducts a portion of your assessed value, which you are taxed on. Anything helps when it comes to taxes. You need to apply for the exemption with the county you are in and some you need to renew each year. Cook County, for example, offers tax exemption discounts to Returning Veterans and Disabled Veterans. More information and forms at http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/exemptions.aspx. Will County offers many Veteran exemptions including Returning Veterans, Disabled Veterans, special homeowner exemption for Disabled Veterans and tax exemption for Veteran Organizations (like VFW, American Legion, etc.). More information at http://www.willcountysoa.com/exemptions.aspx.

Downpayment Assistance Programs Make it Easier to Buy A Home in Illinois

What can you do if you don’t have enough down payment or closing costs to buy a home? You can buy a home with $1,000 or less. Here are some assistance programs offered by the Illinois Department of Housing Authority (IHDA). All these programs require that the home be purchased and used as a principal residence for at least 2-3 years. And for many of these downpayment assistance programs, you do not have to be a first-time buyer.

I have heard people say – what’s the catch or I wouldn’t qualify. You need to meet minimum credit score and income eligibility requirements, but you just never know. These programs are designed to get people to buy homes, and often the income requirements meet many people. If you can get the money, why not take advantage of it? Or at least find out?

Several towns in Illinois, including Park Forest, South Holland, Chicago Heights, Lynwood, Lockport and Crest Hill, are eligible for the Illinois Building Blocks Grant which provides $10,000 towards down payment, closing costs and reduction in purchase price to buy a home. There are income MAXIMUMS between $90-107,000 and you need to qualify with credit score and income to get a loan. You DO NOT have to be a first-time buyer. The home has to be vacant, move-in ready and only in one of the selected towns.

Smart Moves is a downpayment assistance program available to first-time buyers only to buy a home. You can not have owned a home in the last 3 years to be a first-time buyer. This offers $6,000 in down payment and closing costs. Again, the home must be move in ready and anywhere in Illinois.

There are also programs for property tax relief through state income tax credits for 30 years (the life of your loan). This one is for first-time buyers only and usually is only available at the beginning of the year as funds run out on that one towards the middle of the year or earlier. These other programs, however, do have plenty of money available.

Illinois Veterans can take advantage of two homeower assistance programs to find an affordable way to buy a home. VA loans offer a no money down and no private mortgage insurance option. You need to qualify for the home by income and credit and have a DD214. No income maximums. The home only needs to be move-in ready. The Welcome Home Heroes program provides a $10,000 grant for any town to cover closing costs and downpayment. You need to contribute 1% or $1,000 toward down payment. And you DO NOT have to be a first-time buyer to buy a home with this program.

Not all lenders have the ability to loan a home on these programs but many do. I work with lenders who do offer these programs. If there is a will, there is a way to buy a home. Downpayment assistance to buy a home through grants like this are ready and waiting for you.

Preparing to Buy? Here’s what to Do

Yes. It is a great time to buy. Interest rates and prices are at all-time lows while inventory is at record highs. But what if you can’t buy right now or if you timetable is not right now, but in a few months.  What can you do to prepare to buy?

Lenders are looking for 5 things to qualify you for a mortgage. Assets (money to close and out out down). Credit score 620 to 640 and up. Income. Low or no debt. And job stability. Lenders will look all factors. All five don’t have to be stellar to make it a go, but if at least three are no good, that is likely a no. But some of these things can turn around fast with a little knowledge and determination.

Credit. The score is a minimum standard for lenders. The better the score, the easier it is on other factors. Get your score online form a reputable company. Make sure you are not signing on to any kind of long term reporting.

Look at your report and identify anything that is not yours. Pay off debt and collections. Too many opens and too much are the problems. Recent collections hurt most. Get new credit lines to make a positive impact. See my credit blog to get more in detail about the steps to improve credit.

Too much credit can also hurt. It is a fine balance. Fico scores also reflect how much revolving credit you have. Reduce the amount of credit cards keeping one or two major bank cards and maybe a store or two.

Debt. Debt and credit often go hand in hand. But debt also has a direct effect on your home buying power. Too much debt each month will reduce the amount you can pay in monthly mortgage.

Lenders are looking for 42 to 45 percent of your gross income to be spent on Mortgage and any contracted monthly obligations like car and student loans, minimum payment credit card debt, etc. (do not count utilities in that). So, the lower your debt, the more house you can get or the less work you will do to fix it up.

Income and job stability are also issues that go hand in hand. You have to have income. Jobs are six month minimum on the job in most cases. Some lenders like as much as two years on the job. All lenders have different rules and there are exceptions. Gaps in work (-unemployment) are the hardest to overcome, but you can definitely ask.

Your w2 income and adjusted gross income as stated on taxes are considered in qualification. So if you take a lot of deductions or if you are self employed, the income on your tax returns minus deductions is what will count as your income, not what you say you make.

Last but not least money and assets. Bank statements and 401k, stock, etc. tanglible assets are considered by banks to cover down payment and closing costs. You want to show the money on paper (in the bank) for at least two months. Cash on hand is not considered. You need a paper trail.

So you need to make a plan – month by month. How you can save money and apply it to pay off debt first.

There are a lot of homes available right now.  Once you have your financial house in order, you need to see what you want in a real house.  Try to come up with a wish list of what you want out of a neighborhood, schools, transportation access, etc.  And what you both want and need out of a house.  What you don’t like.  And despite what you can spend, what you are comfortable spending.  And know how much or how little work you are comfortable doing.  The best home for you may need a little work.  Distressed properties today often need a little fix up, but you need to decide what you want.  A little up front homework and discussion will help you get your game plan so when you speak to a Realtor to help you, you can have a pretty good direction.  Especially if there is more than one person making the decisions.  Get on the same page as much as you can.  It will save you a lot of time and grief once you are looking if you know what you want.  Looking at homes can sometimes be overwhelming.  This way you can focus a bit.  It is ok to change your mind, but it helps to have a foundation for a start.

Even if you need a few months to get things in order, you should start looking for a good Realtor to represent you.  It doesn’t cost you anything and will save you money and headaches when they will help you with everything from getting a good lender and inspector to finding and contracting a home.  They will also protect your interests to ensure you don’t overpay for a home and get the best deal and are not taken advantage of.  The real estate market now is tricky, but a good Realtor can be your guide and successfully help you navigate the waters.  They will also answer all your questions and educate you on the process every step of the way.  This is what you should be looking for in a Realtor, knowledge, expertise, communication and willingness to help you every step.

RE Marketing Consultants is a licensed Illinois real estate brokerage specializing in helping and guiding buyers, sellers and investors through today’s real estate market to achieve their dreams and goals of home ownership and investment benefits.


BAD Credit is costing you more than you think


Yes, my credit is bad.   Yes I have some delinquent accounts that I haven’t paid.  I really need to fix it….  Sound familiar?  Many people have outstanding accounts that they know about, late medical bills.  In Part III, we will discuss how you can correct, but you may be SURPRISED at HOW MUCH your bad credit is costing you every day.


In today’s business world, risk is involved in every transaction.  How risky are you as a customer?  Your credit score tells them.  Sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole tale or gives a false impression, but it is the equalizer among all people and is used to make decisions that can affect you in many ways and cost you money.  An MSN Money internet article summarizes the loss of bad credit at over $200,000 over a person’s lifetime. 


Housing.  Since housing is your biggest cost, it is costing you the most.  Rental has other implications on children’s home stability, state of mind, test scores, etc.  BUT just the dollars and cents is that rental is costing you on average 50% more than home ownership.  Rental prices are higher because they can be and are in demand. 


Owning also allows you to deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes.  For some people, that is the only deductions you have, which allows you to piggyback other smaller deductions like charitable contributions, unreimbursed business expenses, etc.  This can save you thousands in taxes.


Interest.  And if you are able to buy a home or a car, furniture, electronics, etc. your credit score does affect the interest rate available to you.   Better credit scores will allow the bank to provide you with a lower interest rate.  Depending on what you are buying, even a .50 percent difference in interest rate could save you $50 for every $10,000 per year.  It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you buy on credit, it adds up.   The interest rate difference can prevent you from qualifying for credit terms, forcing you to pay cash for everything and wait until you have it. 


Employment, Career Advancement.  Did you know that your credit score can prevent you from getting a job or even getting a promotion in your current job?  Employers look at the way you manage your money and also consideration of security.  Many human resources managers consider bankruptcies and credit scores when considering new employment or promotion of jobs that involve management of company funds.  If a candidate is in debt, sometimes they are deemed a bad risk.


Insurance rates for car, home, etc are also based on your credit rating.  Again, they are looking at risk.  Insurance companies are in the risk businesses.  The better your credit rating, the better the rate.  Given the cost of most insurance rates, extra charges add up. 


Relationships also can be strained by bad credit.  Each individual has their own credit, but as is often the case, money problems can cause fights.  And many times the higher cost of everything or preventing you from being able to afford the things you want, especially when one has the problem credit can create rifts and even sometimes break ups. 


For all of the above and more, credit correction is an absolute necessity.  850 is considered a perfect credit score.  And a lot of times, there are mistakes in your credit that is costing you money too.  Check out Part III of my Credit Woes blog next week to give you an idea of what to look for in credit correction.